Clemson University’s first Bosch fellow is an automotive engineering graduate student who shares her knowledge of engines and love of learning from the classroom to the NASCAR track.
Vismita Sonagra was named Bosch fellow in a celebration Monday at the Clemson University-International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR).
Sonagra will receive $20,000 and will be encouraged to continue her outreach to boost K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“I feel happy and grateful,” she said. “More than that, I think it’s a big encouragement. What Bosch is doing for STEM is really huge.”
The award was made possible earlier this year by a $500,000 grant from the Bosch Community Fund, which established an endowment in perpetuity for automotive-engineering fellowships. The Bosch Community Fund is the charitable foundation of Robert Bosch LLC.
The program is aimed at inspiring the next generation of engineers and scientists and diversifying the workforce. Awards target exemplary students who are from groups with low representation in engineering and science, including women and minorities.
Sonagra’s award was announced by Mike Mansuetti, who received a mechanical engineering degree from Clemson University in 1987 and is now president of Robert Bosch LLC.
“I’d like to congratulate Vismita,” Mansuetti said. “It’s wonderful to see that Clemson continues to produce some of the nation’s brightest students and offer top-notch programs. It is always good to return to this campus, but especially today when we make this first fellowship announcement and honor the great work of Vismita Sonagra and Clemson University’s educational excellence.
“Vismita and her classmates represent the workforce of the future. She is well on her way, and we are excited by the potential of those who will follow in her footsteps in the future. Together, Bosch and Clemson will help move students into STEM-related careers and help individuals reach their full potential. We see tremendous opportunities now and in the future for students with a strong STEM background.”
Bosch fellows will go to local elementary and middle schools, where they will participate in activities that support STEM education.
Those schools will include the Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School, which opened in August adjacent to CU-ICAR.
As a role model to K-12 students, Sonagra makes learning about STEM interactive, fun and achievable.
Sonagra said that even before she was named fellow, she worked with a team that shows K-12 teachers the science behind driving so that they can go back to the classroom with innovative lessons.
As part of the program, the team takes teachers to NASCAR races and has developed a lesson based on the science of seat belts, Sonagra said.
She plans to step up her K-12 outreach now that she has been named Bosch fellow.
“Those are the formative years, and that’s when many of us decide whether or not we’re going to pursue science,” Sonagra said. “I plan to visit some schools and talk to the students, talk to the girls. I’d like to ask them what they think and maybe give them a pointer or two.”
Helping graduate students pursue their STEM-related degrees while encouraging them to give back to the educational community is exactly what the Bosch Fellowship is designed to do.
The Bosch program will also help CU-ICAR recruit and retain top-quality students and bring more women and minority students into STEM fields, said Imtiaz Haque, founding chair of the automotive engineering department and executive director of the Carroll A. Campbell Graduate Engineering Center at CU-ICAR.
“We are extremely grateful to Bosch for these fellowships and very proud of Vismita,” Haque said. “She is the first of what will be many fellows who will help keep America competitive in the 21st century. The Bosch endowment helps us attain two major goals, namely bringing exceptional talent to the automotive engineering program and creating an exceptional talent pool for the STEM fields that are so critical to our future success as a nation.”
Bosch has operations in more than 30 U.S. locations, including four in South Carolina. Charleston and Fountain Inn each have one location, and Anderson has two.
“The fellowships are an important piece of the Bosch Community Fund,” Mansuetti said. “We have several strong programs in STEM and continue to grow them.
“Mentoring is part of our outreach. We also support teachers and parents as they ready the next generation of students to study, learn and successfully compete to fill STEM-related jobs. Hopefully, it will spark an interest that leads to a lifelong passion for STEM fields and prosperous careers that fill a critical need in the workforce.”
Sonagra said she first became interested in physics and other sciences while a high school student in Pune, India. She went on to receive her Bachelor of Engineering in mechanical engineering at Maharashtra Institute of Technology, graduating in 2012.
Robert Prucka, an assistant professor at CU-ICAR, has played an important role in her education, encouraging her along the way, Sonagra said.
“A lot of the work I do at CU-ICAR would not have been possible if not for him,” she said.
Sonagra said she is looking for an internship for her last semester and anticipates graduating with her Masters degree as early as next summer.